Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows

Posted on November 9, 2008 by

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This is the first of four reviews I’m going to be whacking out over the coming days. Posting has been a bit short lately on all my sites, because of various issues like funerals, parties and being really miserable. For the most part, though, my time has been taken up with some fantastic new titles, the first of which I’m going to review is Spider-man: Web of Shadows.

Most Spider-man games in the past have been frankly, appalling. Particularly the more recent Spider-Man 3 and Friend or foe, which we simply don’t speak of anymore. Based on the movie continuity rather than anything from the comics, they were cheap cash-ins. (Excepting Spider-man 2, the only game to evr get web-swinging spot-on.) Ultimate Spider-Man was a breath of fresh air when it came out, having bright cel-shaded graphics, and the added bonus of actually being in-continuity with the Ultimate comics.

Someone saw the bonus of that vein, and have made a game based on the 616 continuity. (That’s mainstream Marvel to those who aren’t hardcore fans) WOS isn’t without its flaws, but it remains an excellent game, and I dare say, it’s the game Spider-Man 3 *should* have been. The story starts off with a massive battle atop fisk tower, with a dejected and tired spidey walking through the scenes of carnage as S.H.I.E.L.D., the Kingpins men, and a group of symbiotes battle for the city all around him. The sad piano music sets the scene and the tone of the game. In the cutscene we’re shown some of spidey’s moves as he fights his way through the city, and this all serves as a tutorial in aerial, wall, and street-level combat. With this done and dusted, spidey is attacked by an unknown foe and blacks out, the actions shoots back four days, to a similar situation. Venom is in town.

From here, spidey gets infected with a symbiote, giving you the ability to switch between the classic red & blues, to the infamous black costume, each with it’s own play style. The early levels of the game see you taking care of some gang troubles with Marvel second-stringer (They want him to make a comeback, it seems) Luke Cage. It’s not long before you’re posited with your first moral choice, which seems to be the new ‘thing’ for games these days. (It’s also worth noting that the game has a few QTE’s, the old ‘thing’.) and these choices affect how the game ends, with a total of four possible endings (The good guy ending presumably being the canonical one, as always). Things escalate from there untill you’re back at the time of the games opening, and you’re treated to a battle royale. The story is the usual Marvel fare, with only a few twists you aren’t likely to figure out early, and a few things that just leave you thinking (Like how does the Kingpin get into a normal sized car?). The only surprise for me was the Marvel punching-bag Shocker wasn’t in this game, a first in spidey games for quite some time.

The emphasis in this game is really on the combat, rather than the web-slinging, which can be disappointing to fans of SM2, and the swinging never feels like it’s taking you anywhere fast. While it certainly looks goods, and controls they way you think it should, it’s lacking the certain touch that makes it special. For example, there are times in the game when you web onto thin air, something I thought they’d done away with some years ago. It’s just a shame that they didn’t put more time into the swinging, especially considering this game was made by the same people who made SM2. The combat however, being the focus, is fast, brutal and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It’s a shame they resorted to fancy blurs and glowing fists and suit-colour tinted shockwaves though, as they distract from the fantastic character animations as spidey twists and turns and leaps and bounds through the combat.

There are three types of foe in each basic set, (Gang members, Kingpins troops, S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives) which gets a bit samey towards the end of the game, so it’s thankful that when you get back into combat with the symbiotes, there is a little more variety. Expect not just to see Villians getting infected, either, as allies prove just as susceptible to infection. Most of your time will be divided between assisting the police in dispatching groups of enemies, and, later, S.H.I.E.L.D. troops, and performing missions for NPC’s, all of which inevitably lead to combat. The monotony of constant fighting is shuffled about a bit by offering different styles of combat:-

1) Streets: Fighting your foes on the ground, kicks, punches, webs and aerial attacks can all be chained on this level.

2) Walls: Fighting on the sides of tall buildings, this feels a little restricted, but can thankfully be chained with aerial attacks.

3) Air: Taking to the skies with a web-line. This is the easiest and most effective form of combat, as it’s simple to do, and can be upgraded to do considerable damage, it’s also the most fun to look at. Imagine jumping off a tall building, webbing a foe down below you, pulling yourself to him, K.O.ing him in one hit, and then doing the same to another foe further down, and so on. Looks most impressive going down, but works in all directions and it the only way to fight certain enemies.

Web attacks themselves, spidey’s trademark, are rather limited, and fairly ineffectual in combat. You can’t even use them in the black suit, where they are replaced with the infinitely more useful ‘tendril attacks’. These fighting styles apply to both suits, with the only noticeable difference the types of attacks you can perform in each area, with the red suit focused on acrobatics and flying about, and the black suit focused on pummeling the crap out of them and hurling cars around. There’s is also a basic Karma-meter related to how you take care of civvies, as recusing them gets you good points and throwing their car with them inside it at a huge robot giving you bad points, as expected. It’s a shame that your alignment has no real effect on anything important untill the games finale, and it would have been nice to see some alignment-related dialogue from the general public.

Graphically, the game is stunning, and reminds me of the art style of Alex Ross, super-hero realist. (Google him, you’ll see what I mean). The voice acting is solid, and while I didn’t like spideys voice to begin with (Rino Romano will always have been the best) it grew on me and soon it quite liked it. With only several moments of genuine humour, I felt short-changed, as the fans have come to expect a certain amount of quippage.

Now comes the ‘I wish’. I wish there had been more super-hero cameos, I wish there had been more character interaction, I wish they’d got the web-swinging right, and I wish there had been more bonus costumes. Would it have taken that long to add the iron-spider? or the scarlet spider? or the 2099 outfit?

As a whole though, I thoroughly enjoyed this game, and it’s proven the only thing capable of pulling me away from Fallout 3 right now. I’m giving it a thumbs up.

(That means yes, it’s a damn good game.)

Coming soon: That Fallout review i’ve been promising, as well as Far Cry 2 and Bioshock. Allons’y!

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Posted in: Games